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The Red Light District in Amsterdam is awash with blazes of neon and almost endless vice. If you choose to satisfy your curiosity with a wander around the area, keep your wits about you and watch out for pickpockets.
Most importantly, remember that there's more to the Red Light District than its salaciousness — and much more to this multifaceted city than the Red Light District. A major trading harbour since the Middle Ages made Amsterdam a magnet for the 'world's oldest profession. But sex work wasn't legal until , and brothels weren't legalised until Changes continue: since , city officials have taken measures to clean up the district by reducing the number of red-light windows in an effort to eliminate pimps, human traffickers and money launderers all of which are illegal.
Project , named for the area's postal code, encourages fashion studios, art galleries, cafes and other creative enterprises to set up here. It's a measure designed to combat overtourism, but sex workers have come out against the plan.
Ground-zero for red-light windows is, ironically enough, Amsterdam's oldest building, the 14th-century Oude Kerk Old Church. Near its entrance, look down to see the 'golden torso' pavement plaque of a hand groping a breast. On the Oudekerksplein is Belle , a bronze statue of a sex worker with the inscription 'Respect sex workers all over the world'. Just nearby, the Prostitution Information Centre is a fount of information for both sex workers and visitors, and runs informative 90 minute Red Light District walking tours twice a week.
The statement 'Respect sex workers all over the world' is inscribed on the bronze statue of Belle. You can check out bondage exhibits and other eyebrow-raising displays at the Red Light District's Erotic Museum or, for more raunchy exhibits, head northwest to the Sexmuseum Amsterdam , between Centraal Station and Dam square.